Africa’s ‘poverty trap’ more dangerous than so-called debt trap

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Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta (L) and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi attend the completion ceremony of the Chinese-built oil terminal at the port of Mombasa in Mombasa, Kenya, January 6, 2022. /Xinhua

Lawrence Freeman

CGTN, January 24, 2022

Editor’s note: Lawrence Freeman is a Political-Economic Analyst on Africa, who has been involved in economic development policies for Africa for over 30 years. The article reflects the author’s opinions and not necessarily the views of CGTN.

In his visit to Kenya on January 6, 2022, China’s Foreign Minister, Wang Yi, emphasized China’s support for economic progress in Africa, and in particular, the Horn of Africa.

Wang was continuing China’s 32-year-old tradition of having their foreign minister begin each year with an overseas trip to Africa. In the first week of January, Wang met with officials in Eritrea, Kenya and Comoros. Both Eritrea and Kenya are located in East Africa, a region where Ethiopia, the second most populated nation in Africa, is engaged in a 14-month war to defeat an armed insurrection led by the Tigray People’s Liberation Front. Kenya, an important ally of China, is a key nation in China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and Maritime Silk Road.

Eliminating poverty

Wang, in his press conference, focused on the number one challenge facing Africa: poverty and the extremely low standard of living affecting the majority of its 1.4 billion people.

He polemically stated,”If there is any trap in Africa, it is the trap of poverty and the trap of backwardness,” which he counterposed to the so-called debt trap that he referred to as a “speech trap” created by the West. China speaks with authority, which has accomplished a modern day miracle in lifting over 750 million of its people out of extreme poverty and has pledged to help Africa do the same.

A woman fills up her water jerrycan in Nairobi, capital of Kenya, January 1, 2022. /VCG

China’s approach to the current challenges in the Horn of Africa is in stark contrast to that of the U.S. Instead of punishing Eastern African nations with sanctions and economic warfare, China is promoting peace and economic development. According to Wang, China will appoint a special envoy for the region, with the goal:

“To support the Horn of Africa in realizing lasting stability, peace and prosperity, China is willing to put forward the ‘Initiative of Peaceful Development in the Horn of Africa’ and support regional countries in addressing the triple challenges of security, development and governance.”

Emphasizing China’s infrastructure-led economic approach, Wang encouraged nations of the region to “accelerate regional revitalization to overcome development challenges,” adding that “the two principal axes, the Mombasa-Nairobi Railway, and the Addis Ababa-Djibouti Railway, should be enlarged and enhanced with the aim of expanding to neighboring countries at an opportune moment.”

Wang announced that China would provide an additional 10 million doses of coronavirus vaccine to Kenya which follows President Xi Jinping’s November pledge at the Forum on China Africa Cooperation conference in Dakar, to make 1 billion doses available to Africa.

China’s policy guided by development

The dominant feature of China’s relation to Africa is development, contrary to the Western geopolitical propaganda against China. The infrastructure-driven BRI has made physical improvements in African economies through the construction of railways, roads, power generation capacity, ports and airports. There is not a single Western nation that even remotely compares to China’s level of investment in Africa.

As every African leader knows well, if China were to cease offering loans for infrastructure, there would be no Western nation to address the continent’s huge deficit in the field, and African nations would suffer terribly.

The U.S. has failed to modernize its own rail network and is incapable of building advanced transportation corridors in other countries, while China had constructed around 40,000 kilometers of high-speed rail by the end of 2021.

Unlike U.S. officials who travel to African nations, Chinese representatives do not attach political conditionalities or arrogantly dictate what domestic policies must be adopted by their host countries. Instead, China is thoughtful by responding to the most critical and urgent needs of African nations. That is the elimination of poverty, which necessitates massive investments in hard and soft infrastructure.

Africa-s-poverty-trap-more-dangerous-than-so-called-debt-trap

Read my earlier posts:

Chinese ‘Debt Trap” is a Myth-Biden Would be Wise Not to Continue Trump’s Attacks on China in Africa 

China-Africa Debt Trap Refuted Again. Belt and Road Building Infrastructure-Developing Africa

A Brief Response: Marshall Plan for Africa or “Debt Trap?”

Lawrence Freeman is a Political-Economic Analyst for Africa, who has been involved in economic development policies for Africa for over 30 years. He is the creator of the blog: lawrencefreemanafricaandtheworld.com. Mr. Freeman’s stated personal mission is; to eliminate poverty and hunger in Africa by applying the scientific economic principles of Alexander Hamilton.

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Senegalese President Macky Sall congratulated China for the success of its Chang’e-4 mission to deploy a lunar rover on the far side of the Moon, when he met with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi on Jan. 6. Senegal, which is currently co-chair of the Forum of China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC). This was the last stop in Wang’s four-nation tour of Africa that began in Ethiopia.

According to Xinhua, Sall said that “this major technological breakthrough has shown that China is taking the lead in the field of technological innovation…. China’s African friends are proud of its achievement.” He added that they hope to strengthen their cooperation with China in scientific and technological innovation.

African Union Commission Chairman Moussa Faki Mahamat had said much the same thing, when he met with Wang on Jan. 4 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, where the AU has its headquarters. Expressing his congratulations on the successful landing of the Chang’e-4 lunar probe, Faki told Wang, “for humans, the Moon is out of reach, but with its super-scientific capabilities, China has successfully achieved this landing event, making history.” He, too, said that Africa, as a friend of China, is happy about its success, and hopes that African countries will strengthen cooperation with China in science and technological innovation.

Xinhua reported that Wang, in responding to Sall, said that China’s achievements are also achievements of developing countries, “stressing that developing countries have the right and ability to achieve rapid development in the field of scientific and technological innovation.”

Between those two stops, Wang visited The Gambia and Burkina Faso, two countries which had only established relations with China in 2016 and 2018. Cooperation through the Belt and Road Initiative was on the agenda in each stop, as was China’s commitment to helping bring peace to Africa, which is fighting off terrorism. Wang told AU Commission Chair Faki, and Burkina Faso’s President Roch Marc Christian Kaboré and Foreign Minister Alpha Barry, in particular, that China will “soon” provide its $45 million commitment for the anti-terror force of the Group of 5 Sahel countries (Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania, and Niger), plus additional support for equipment as well as equipment for the fight against terrorism. One Burkina Faso newspaper called Wang’s pledge “a breath of fresh air,” because while the G5 Sahel counter-force is backed by the United Nations Security Council, international funding has been way below commitments.

Traditionally China’s foreign minister makes the first overseas trip of each year to Africa.

{China Daily} Reflects on Chang’e-4 Mission

In an article headlined “Exploring Outer Space for Benefit of Mankind,” the semi-official {China Daily} takes stock of the significance of the ongoing Chang’e-4 mission.

“The successful landing of China’s Chang’e 4 probe on the far side of the Moon on Jan. 3 marks a significant step forward in the exploration of outer space and paves the way for future space missions…. Both the country and its people have a good reason to take pride in this pioneering achievement, which contributes to the efforts to learn our homes planet’s satellite, the Solar System and the universe beyond…. Following the Chang’e 4 mission, China is expected to quicken its steps in exploring outer space.

“In recent years, each significant achievement made by China’s space industry has drawn global attention. Although its space industry is comparatively young, China’s commitment to the exploration of outer space has always been crystal clear and consistent. It is committed to the principle of using outer space for peaceful purposes, and opposes the militarization of or an arms race in outer space. Its door is open to international cooperation in space exploration….

China’s commitment to international cooperation demonstrates its unwavering belief that outer space is a common home for all humanity and that its space
dream is part of the dream of all humankind.”